ZBT rebuilds after sexual assault allegations



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Zeta Beta Tau house IDS file photo Buy Photos

It was the day after Thanksgiving break when freshman Mason Reiter and the rest of his Zeta Beta Tau pledge class received news of the sexual assault allegation.

On Nov. 5, 2012, then-ZBT President Kyle Mataloni received a letter from the Student Organization Ethics Board, which oversees disciplinary hearings involving allegations, criminal or otherwise, involving a student organization.

The letter placed the fraternity on deferred suspension for more than a year and informed Mataloni that students on the board had found ZBT members responsible for “sexual assault” and “sexual contact with another person without consent,” according to the letter.

Representatives from Student Life and Learning did not respond to requests for further information about the findings.

The four-page letter outlined sanctions and requirements the fraternity had to meet in order to remain an active chapter on campus, including completion of a series of sexual assault awareness educational programs led by IU Health Center and Student Life and Learning.

But on the day after Thanksgiving break, two members of the fraternity’s national organization drove from their headquarters in Indianapolis to meet with the pledges.

During the meeting, Reiter and his fellow pledges learned they would no longer be initiates of the fraternity they initially wanted to join. Unbeknownst to the new recruits, representatives from nationals and the University had been meeting with members of ZBT’s then-executive board discussing the consequences of possible criminal activity in the house.

Without a house and without upperclassmen members, nationals approached the pledge class with a proposal.

“We were just completely cut off from everything until nationals finally came to us and said, ‘They’re all gone. Do you guys want to step in?’” Reiter, now the president of what he and his executive board call the “new ZBT,” said. “We said yes.”

The current chapter of ZBT, National ZBT Director Laurence Bolotin said, has no relationship with the former chapter.

ZBT crewneck sweatshirts began reappearing on campus in early April, when members of the “new ZBT” started one of their two philanthropy projects for the remainder of the year.

A group of freshmen rolled an eight-foot-tall beach ball around campus, soliciting students to sign it. For every signature, $2 would be donated to Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

Mid-signature, some students would ask, “Didn’t you guys get kicked off campus?”

***

Zeta Beta Tau’s disciplinary problems began in April 2010 when a woman was transported to the hospital after consuming alcohol at a fraternity function.

Citations for “uncontrolled distribution of hard liquor” and “drinking games” followed, according to University documents, and the fraternity went through periods of disciplinary probation and social restrictions through 2012.

But in September, allegations of sexual assault surfaced. Police went to the fraternity’s house on the North Jordan extension and seized security footage, sophomore and former ZBT Vice President Chad Silver said.

According to IU Police Department records, a forcible sex offense was reported at ZBT’s house Sept. 10, 2011. The case did not end in arrest. No charges were filed. IU’s Assistant General Counsel Stephen Harper declined the release of further information about the report.

In an email from December 2012, Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life Michael Goodman told the IDS that ZBT was “found responsible for disorderly conduct, actions that endanger the community, harassment and alcohol violations, among several others.”

At the time, Bolotin refused to comment on the exact nature of the offenses that contributed to the fraternity’s suspension.

In early December, Mike Shartiag, ZBT alumnus and owner of the fraternity’s former house at 1640 N. Jordan Ave., announced he would not allow ZBT to occupy the house for the 2013-14 academic year. The letters were removed from the fraternity’s home.

In a December interview, Shartiag said repeated violations of the building’s fire code — mattresses propped against walls and general mistreatment of the property — caused him to not renew the lease.

Shartiag witnessed a former ZBT house burn in a 1984 fire that was ultimately deemed arson. The fire caused the death of a 19-year-old and the hospitalization of four fraternity members who suffered second-degree burns and injuries from leaping from the burning fraternity house. Thirty other individuals were also treated, according to a report from the Associated Press.

“I find it incomprehensible that today’s ZBT could repeatedly commit such egregious life safety violations,” Shartiag said in a press release issued in early December. “The single deciding factor on the part of the ‘Landlord’ in not renewing ZBT’s lease was the life safety contractual violations with respect to the fire alarm system and fire code violations in the leased property.”

On Oct. 29, 2012, IU’s Office of Insurance, Loss Control and Claims conducted an inspection of 1640 N. Jordan Ave. based on the number of runs Bloomington Fire Department was making to the house. The fire alarm was working as designed, and the arrangement of smoke detectors surpassed the requirements set by the office’s codes.

In the times the fire department responded unnecessarily, such as when occupants smoked in the individual rooms, action was taken against individual fraternity members, according to a report written by Assistant Director of the Office of Insurance, Loss Control and Claims Mel Lane.

Shartiag did not respond to multiple email inquiries about the sexual assault allegations.

Throughout November and December of 2012, the national fraternity and the University worked with the fraternity’s executive board to find solutions to the allegations. The national chapter conducted a review of all members.

The investigation of any criminal allegations against fraternity members was left to law enforcement, Bolotin said April 17.

“Zeta Beta Tau applies a much higher standard of conduct to its members,” he said.

Accordingly, the national fraternity conducted an investigation not because of suspected illegal activity, but because it was suspected that members fell below standards expected by the fraternity, Bolotin said.

By spring semester 2013, the national fraternity had expelled members of ZBT, Bolotin said. Some were given the opportunity to reapply for membership. Those who declined became early alumni of the fraternity.

In early December, Mataloni told the IDS that members of the fraternity were upset with national headquarters and decided to disaffiliate on their own accord.

Mataloni did not respond to numerous requests for further comment.

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Although Office of Student Ethics Director and Associate Dean of Students Jason Casares could not discuss ZBT’s case specifically, he said the Office of Student Ethics is the point of entry into all allegations, criminal or otherwise, which might require disciplinary action on the part of the University.

This was the case for sexual assault allegations against ZBT.

When an incident of sexual violence is reported to IUPD, the Office of Student Ethics is notified and reaches out to the victim, requesting to meet. The initial meeting involves the victim, a representative from the Office of Student Ethics and a third-party student advocate going over different resources available on campus. During this time, the victim will also learn about the Office of Student Ethics’ capacity to investigate the incident.

Casares said reports of sexual violence account for “an extreme minority of cases that we have.”

Whether or not the Office of Student Ethics enters into an investigation is at the discretion of the victim, Casares said, unless it is determined there is a larger campus safety concern at hand.

The Board of Student Ethics determined the incidents at ZBT were organizational — the problem transcended individual members and was associated with the fraternity at large — and the case moved to Student Life and Learning to be heard by the Student Organization Ethics Board.

The Student Organization Ethics Board, Casares said, consists of IU students who review details of investigations conducted by the Office of Student Ethics and make decisions about the group based on the findings.

***

In the aftermath of the fraternity’s loss of housing, rumors circulated about the future of the fraternity, of possible rapes and even the presence of a “rape room” within the fraternity’s former house.

“Those rumors are false,” Bolotin said. “In fact, they are ridiculous.”

ZBT is still recognized as an active chapter by the University. It consists of 24 members, all of them freshman. Left without a house, they meet in Briscoe Quad, where the majority of the fraternity’s members live.

ZBT is the only fraternity on campus with an all-freshman executive board, and they are working to completely change the image of the group after the “sexual assault scandal,” as one member of the executive board called it.

Several months ago, ZBT announced it would partner with sorority Sigma Delta Tau and Jewish Women’s International to develop a program to help members understand “the foundation of safe, healthy and mutually respectful interpersonal relationships,” Bolotin said.

“We know that our image isn’t going to change over night,” Reiter said. “Ideally, we’d love it to because we’re a new group of kids who aren’t associated with what the old ZBT image is known for.”

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